The best black CEOs of 2021
The list of black executives generating shareholder value is growing in American companies. However, the list of black CEOs remains small. As of mid-2021, only four black CEOs are running Fortune 500 companies. Let’s take a closer look at these top black US CEOs.
1. Marvin Ellison, Lowe’s
Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) needs to catch up with his main rival, Home deposit (NYSE: HD). Lowe CEO Marvin Ellison is the right fit for the job because he was pivotal in the success of Home Depot in the first place. He spent 12 years in various management positions at The Home Depot and led the chain’s US stores from 2008 to 2014.
Home Depot outperformed Lowe’s after the 2008-09 financial crisis on several metrics including EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). Likewise, Lowe’s dragged its rival in asset-generated profits and took longer to sell its stocks.
Simply put, Home Depot made more money selling products faster than Lowe’s. It mostly comes down to in-store performance – something Ellison oversaw during his tenure.
Ellison’s plans are to capture market share by re-engaging professional customers, resetting the Lowe’s store footprint and expanding its online presence. A big part of his vision is to grow omnichannel sales (online customers often want to pick up in-store deliveries) and invest in increasing same-day and next-day delivery, which is vital for business customers.
Ellison’s experience and previous commitment to improving Home Depot’s customer-facing operations should serve him well as he sets out to improve Lowe’s performance. If he does, he will surely become one of America’s most notable business leaders.
2. Brewer Rosalind “Roz”, Walgreens
Rosalind “Roz” Brewer Becomes CEO of Global Retail Pharmacy Alliance of Walgreens boots (NASDAQ: WBA) in March 2021 after a long career in consumer goods and distribution companies. After being CEO of Walmart‘s (NYSE: WMT) Sam’s Club and a 2017-2021 stint as COO of Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) Brewer is well positioned to execute Walgreens’ plan to restructure its retail offering.
This is something investors should welcome, as the company recently sold its wholesale and distribution business Alliance Healthcare to focus on expanding its core retail pharmacy business. With a strong focus on retail, Brewer fits the profile of a leader capable of extracting value from the corporate network.
Brewer is one of two black female CEOs of the Fortune 500. The other is Thasunda Brown Duckett of the Teachers, Insurance, and Annuity Association (TIAA), a non-profit financial services company. In May 2021, she succeeded Roger Ferguson, a highly accomplished African-American business leader and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.
3. Russell Stokes, GE Aviation Services
Russell Stokes is the CEO and Chairman of General Electric (NYSE: GE) Aviation Services, arguably GE’s most important business. Stokes is a 23-year GE veteran, having previously led GE Power, GE Power Portfolio, GE Energy Connections and GE Transportation.
Stokes has played a key role in some of GE’s most critical initiatives. For example, prior to his appointment to GE Aviation Services in 2020, Stokes was involved in turning around the company’s underperforming electrical business.
As Director of GE Aviation Services, Stokes will play a pivotal role in increasing GE’s revenues. The aviation segment is GE’s crown jewel, and Aviation Services is where it makes its money. GE Aviation and its joint ventures are responsible for driving more than two-thirds of commercial flight departures worldwide.
Typically, engines require several shop visits during their lifetime. At the end of 2020, GE Aviation had a backlog of $ 219 billion in commercial aviation services. If GE’s turnaround plans are successful, Stokes will have played a key role in their realization.
4. Craig Arnold, Eaton
Eaton CEO Craig Arnold doesn’t always get the attention he deserves. This is probably because the energy management company is not exactly a top business among retail investors. But the industry veteran – Arnold began his career at GE in 1983 – runs a business undergoing transformation.
After joining Eaton in 2000 as senior vice president of the hydraulic group, Arnold rose through the ranks to become the COO of Eaton’s industrial sector.
Since being appointed CEO in 2016, Arnold has been aggressively engaged in the divestiture of non-core businesses such as hydraulics, lighting and automotive fluids transportation. At the same time, he invested $ 6 billion in the acquisition of companies exposed to the themes of electrification and aerospace.
Arnold sees the restructuring lead to an operating margin of 21% over the medium term, up from 16.4% in 2020. Meanwhile, favorable end markets promise to boost Eaton’s growth prospects in the years to come – for example , the trend towards electrification, renewable energies, and the smart grid. In addition, the digitization of the economy increases the need for energy management solutions and electrical equipment.
Meanwhile, Arnold expects to have $ 5 billion to $ 7 billion for further acquisitions through 2025. In other words, he has the financial firepower to continue restructuring Eaton for growth.
How the best black CEOs drive growth
What’s exciting about these four CEOs is that they are all top companies facing challenges: Ellison with his focus on Lowe’s margin and store performance, Brewer with his focus on retail at Walgreens, Stokes by extracting every ounce of profit from the takeover at GE Aviation and Arnold by executing Eaton’s transformation plan.
They will play a central role in the future of their business while inspiring people along the way.